CSI Immanuel Cathedral – Historical Perspective

CSI IMMANUEL CATHEDRAL- A HISTORICAL PERSEPCTIVE

The CSI Immanuel Cathedral, Ernakulam,(formerly known as CSI Immanuel Church under the Diocese of North Kerala of the Church of South India ) was dedicated more than 110 years ago. The site, originally comprising 56 cents, was bought in 1905 by Rev. J.H. Bishop and the original church was built largely through his efforts, in memory of Rev. E.B. Russel who was a missionary of the Church of England in Travancore-Cochin from 1897 to 1899 and Rev. A.B. Sealy who was the principal of the Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam from 1875 to 1892 and also Director of Education of the Cochin State.  A brass tablet in memory of these two missionaries was affixed in the chancel wall and the new church became known as the Russel Sealy Memorial Church. Technical advice for the construction of the church was provided by Mr. Browning, son-in-law of Rev. Sealy, who was then Chief Engineer of Cochin State

The foundation stone of the new church was laid by Sir Arthur Lawley, Governor of Madras and the church was dedicated for divine worship by the Most Rev. R.S. Coplestone, Metropolitan of India and Ceylon, at a benediction service held on 11th February 1908.

 

Initially the church was attached to the Trichur pastorate as there were only a few families that took up permanent membership in the new church. There were therefore no pastors in charge of the parish and from 1908 to 1927 the church was administered by the missionaries in Trichur and the parish duties carried out by lay workers, the first of whom was Mr. P.P. Lazarus of Trichur. The first graduate catechist of the parish was Mr. K.S. George. He was followed by Mr. George Koshy. After working as catechist for a few years, Mr. Koshy left to study at the Serampore Divinity College; he was to return as pastor of the parish in 1952.

 

In 1928 Ernakulam was made a separate parish with Mulavukad as its outstation. Rev. C.K. John was the first priest of the new parish and served initially as catechist, but after a few years was ordained as deacon and then, still later, as the presbyter. The church celebrated its Silver Anniversaryin 1933 during the tenure of Rt. Rev. E.A.L. Moore, bishop of the diocese of Travancore-Cochin.

 

In 1938, just two years after the ElectricityAgitation, the church was electrified and in that year the choir was outfitted in robes – black with white surplices – for the very first time.

 

In 1939 the church opened clinics in country boats. These ‘Floating Dispensaries’, as they were called, each under the charge of a doctor, provided medical aid to out-of-the-way places in waterlogged areas. The venture was, by all accounts, a great success and continued for about 20 years.

 

The foundation stone for a parish hall was laid in 1945 by Sir George Boag, dewan of Cochin State, in the presence of the Most Rev. Dr. Foss Westcott, metropolitan of India and Ceylon and Rt. Rev. C.K. Jacob, bishop of the diocese of Travancore – Cochin. The hall was, however, completed only in 1950. The funds were raised by the ladies of the church who had been given the responsibility by the vicar, Rev. N.I. Joseph. The hall, named the Westcott Hall in honour of the metropolitan, served the needs of the congregation for
over 60 years. It was finally pulled down in 2008 when the construction of the present church was under way. 

The foundation stone of the new church was laid by Sir Arthur Lawley, Governor of Madras and the church was dedicated for divine worship by the Most Rev. R.S. Coplestone, Metropolitan of India and Ceylon, at a benediction service held on 11th February 1908.

 

Initially the church was attached to the Trichur pastorate as there were only a few families that took up permanent membership in the new church. There were therefore no pastors in charge of the parish and from 1908 to 1927 the church was administered by the missionaries in Trichur and the parish duties carried out by lay workers, the first of whom was Mr. P.P. Lazarus of Trichur. The first graduate catechist of the parish was Mr. K.S. George. He was followed by Mr. George Koshy. After working as catechist for a few years, Mr. Koshy left to study at the Serampore Divinity College; he was to return as pastor of the parish in 1952.

 

In 1928 Ernakulam was made a separate parish with Mulavukad as its outstation. Rev. C.K. John was the first priest of the new parish and served initially as catechist, but after a few years was ordained as deacon and then, still later, as the presbyter. The church celebrated its Silver Anniversaryin 1933 during the tenure of Rt. Rev. E.A.L. Moore, bishop of the diocese of Travancore-Cochin.

 

In 1938, just two years after the ElectricityAgitation, the church was electrified and in that year the choir was outfitted in robes – black with white surplices – for the very first time.

 

In 1939 the church opened clinics in country boats. These ‘Floating Dispensaries’, as they were called, each under the charge of a doctor, provided medical aid to out-of-the-way places in waterlogged areas. The venture was, by all accounts, a great success and continued for about 20 years.

 

The foundation stone for a parish hall was laid in 1945 by Sir George Boag, dewan of Cochin State, in the presence of the Most Rev. Dr. Foss Westcott, metropolitan of India and Ceylon and Rt. Rev. C.K. Jacob, bishop of the diocese of Travancore – Cochin. The hall was, however, completed only in 1950. The funds were raised by the ladies of the church who had been given the responsibility by the vicar, Rev. N.I. Joseph. The hall, named the Westcott Hall in honour of the metropolitan, served the needs of the congregation for
over 60 years. It was finally pulled down in 2008 when the construction of the present church was under way. 

In 1947, soon after the formation of the Church of South India, the church established its Youth League, now called the Youth Fellowship.

Through the initiative of Rev. George Koshy, the Immanuel Church brought out its first newsletter in 1955. The tradition continues, though from 2005 the name was changed to Immanuel.

In 1956, the church established the Poor Fund, an initiative that has stood witness to Christianity for more than half a century.

The church celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1958 when Rt. Rev. Richard Lipp was bishop of the Diocese of North Kerala. Coinciding with the Golden Jubilee of the church, the choir switched the colour of its robes from black to the scarlet, it presently dons.

 

The church also began to conduct divine worship services in Tamil and today the church conducts Tamil services every Sunday at 3.30 pm. These are attended by a good number of believers.

The Platinum Jubilee of the church was celebrated in 1982 when Rt. Rev. K.C. Seth was bishop of the Diocese of North Kerala. The Most Rev. I. Jesudasan, then Moderator of the Church of South India was the chief celebrant. During this period Archbishop of Canterbury Most. Rev. Robert Runcie visited our Church.

Over time, with membership ever increasing, the extension became inadequate and it was decided to bifurcate the membership and to construct a new church, the CSI Christ Church, in Elamkulam in Ernakulam. The new church was dedicated on 6th January 1991 by Rt. Rev. Dr. P.G. Kuruvilla, bishop of the Diocese of North Kerala, and nearly 200 families transferred to it from the CSI Immanuel Church.

A larger parish hall was required for conducting wedding receptions, Sunday school classes and other meetings. It was therefore decided to construct a large parish hall to cater to the needs of the congregation. The foundation stone was laid in 1995 by Rt. Rev. Dr. K.C. Seth who also inaugurated the building in 1997.

The new century witnessed a flurry of building activity by the Immanuel Church.

The tremendous growth of Cochin was reflected in the growth of the Immanuel congregation. The need to expand yet further resulted in the building of a new church at Kakkanad. The foundation stone for the CSI Ascension Church was laid on 3rd June 2001 by Rt. Rev. Dr. George Isaac, bishop of the diocese of North Kerala who also dedicated the church when it became an independent pastorate on 1st September 2002.

After a long innings, the old parsonage was pulled down and a new one built. The foundation stone for the parsonage complex was laid on 17th November 2002 by Rt. Rev.  Dr. George Isaac who also dedicated in 2006 the ground floor meant to accommodate the vicar. Thereafter work began on the 1st floor where the assistant vicar’s residence and a guest suite was planned and the Moore Hall on the 2nd floor, which  part of the building was dedicated within a couple of years by Rt. Rev. Dr. K.P. Kuruvilla, bishop of the diocese of North Kerala.

The Moore Bhavan, which was lying unused by the tenant, was in a dilapidated condition. Upon the Cochin Corporation ordering its demolition, the building was brought down in August 2004.

Having withstood the vagaries of the weather for more than half a century, it was found necessary to build a new church and parsonage at Mulavukad. The foundation stones for these were laid in December 2004 by Rt. Rev. Dr. George Isaac, who also dedicated the buildings in April 2006. The cost for the reconstruction of the church was met by the late Mr. K.O.Mathews in memory of his wife late Mrs. Mariamma Mathews.

 


With the church membership rising to more than 600 families, it was found that the church could not accommodate worshippers for the regular Sunday worship services. It was realized that a new church that would accommodate the present members and also cater to the needs of the future would have to be built in place of the old one which had stood for a hundred years. Accordingly plans were drawn up for a new church and the foundation stone was laid by Rt. Rev.  Dr. George Isaac in November 2005. Once approval was received, the altar and other accoutrements of the sanctuary were moved in January 2006 to the parish hall, which was dedicated for conducting the divine worship services that were held there till the dedication of the new Immanuel church.

 

 This period also witnessed the centenary of the church and it was celebrated with the launch of many projects. On19th December 2006, the President of India Shri. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, inaugurated the centenary celebrations at a gala function at the Kerala Fine Arts Hall. Rev. T. I. James, then vicar, along with the pastorate committee and building committee members took great initiative for the successful completion  of the present new Immanuel church.

 

The new church was dedicated by Rt. Rev. Dr. K.P. Kuruvilla on 15th December 2007. The then Home Minister of India, Shri.ShivrajPatil, attended the public meeting that day and delivered the valedictory address.

In December 2005 work began on the constructing of a vault at the cemetery and beautifying the place and dedicated in April 2009 by our bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. K. P. Kuruvilla. In 2011, work began on rebuilding the cemetery chapel and it was dedicated on 2012.

 

In December 2010 the Most Rev. S. Vasantha kumar, Moderator of the Church of South India, was welcomed and received at a special function along with Mr. M.M. Philip, General Secretary of the CSI.  Rt. Rev. Dr. K.P. Kuruvilla presided over the meeting which was also attended by Mr. Tony Chammani, Mayor, Corporation of Cochin. Renovation work on the Parish Hall started on March 2015 and was completed by March 2017.

 

The bifurcation of the CSI North Kerala Diocese into CSI Cochin Diocese and CSI Malabar District took place on 9th April 2015. Thus CSI Immanuel Church came under the present CSI Cochin Diocese.

 

The CSI Immanuel Church was chosen by the resolution of the Diocesan Members of the CSI Cochin Diocese as the Cathedral of the CSI Cochin Diocese and was dedicated as Cathedral by the Moderator Rt. Rev. Thomas K Oommen on May 7th 2017. Thus the century and ten year old CSI Immanuel Church, Broadway, Ernakulam came to be known as CSI Cathedral, Broadway, Ernakulam.

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